For the past few years, there has been a lot of chatter surrounding the possibility of medical marijuana helping patients get off dangerous opioids. But the herb’s potential in curbing the use of highly addictive sedatives called benzodiazepines – the other prescription drug scourge currently pounding away at the United States – has largely been ignored. Perhaps the time to open up this part of the cannabis conversation is now.
The abuse of anti-anxiety medications, which are more commonly known by brand names like Valium, Xanax and Klonopin, is the next stroke in the portrait of the American junkie. A recent report from WebMD finds that emergency incidents related to benzo-fiending have skyrocketed by 570 percent over the past two decades.
And no, that is not a typo.
Anxiety is a common mental disorder that gnaws at the nerves of nearly 20 percent of the American population. Yours truly struggles with it more often than not. Like right now, I’m anxious about whether anyone will read this article beyond the headline and I’m wondering if typing a single word on this subject is even worth it. And believe me, I’ll lose sleep tonight over the fact that I went ahead and did it anyway, just because there wasn’t anything more interesting to write about on a Thursday. But I’ll find a way to get through it, at least until next time.
A lot of people affected by anxiety – around 40 percent of them – never seek out treatment to better their situation. Those who do, however, are typically prescribed benzodiazepines to take the edge off during those anxious moments when the scorns of life gets to be too much. And these little pills, written about quite extensively throughout the course of rock n’ roll history, are quite effective at sawing the edge off a full-blown freak-out almost instantly. But it’s their effectiveness that makes it easier for them to become a social crutch and increase the risk of addiction.
In the case of prescription drugs, an overdose is always a possibility. Although it is not as easy to “check-out” from an over-zealous benzo bender as it is with opioids, some of the latest reports show that overdose deaths stemming from benzo abuse are happening more these days. This is because people are freely mixing them with other substances – namely opioids and alcohol.
There have also been reports that counterfeit Xanax pills laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl are being distributed on the black market. The truth is, some recreational users seek out this and other drug cocktails regularly, while others may not be aware that they are entering dangerous territory.
As we’ve learned in the case of methamphetamine and cocaine, drugs that are produced and distributed by cartel operations, these types of mad science concoctions made with fentanyl often lead to bodies hitting the floor.
But even without the risk of overdose entered into the equation, the addiction factor should be a huge concern for anyone prescribed benzodiazepines. Trying to get off these little boogers without tapering the dose can produce some wicked withdrawal symptoms– some of them even deadly – and that whirlwind of insanity can last for weeks before the person starts to feel even remotely human again. In a lot of ways, the clutches of benzos is just as disturbing as it is with opioids.
The good news is that people with anxiety are having great success with marijuana. Some studies show a significant decrease in benzo dependency in patients using medical marijuana under the supervision of a physician. In some cases, patients on a medical marijuana regimen were able to discontinue the use of benzodiazepines altogether. But the key to using weed in place of anti-anxiety medications is really about finding the right strain and dose. Like, it is probably not the best idea to try finding the “calm” with high-THC strains. These breeds can sometimes bring on even more panic than what the person was experiencing in the first place. Strains that have lower levels of THC and more CBD content have been found better suited for this condition. Some patients even claim that they’ve had success in combating bouts of anxiety through the use of CBD alone. But there is no one-size fits all fix. It is recommended that a person discuss their anxiety issues with a doctor and try to hash out a medical marijuana treatment plan that is right for them.